Elf Power plays The Vera Project Wednesday. [You can read a review of their last show in Seattle here.] They are on tour with a new record. It’s got that mesmerizing Elf Power indie rock sound, the melodies familiar yet distinct, the vocals subdued yet strong, the lyrics grounded yet mystical. Got a chance to catch up with Andrew Rieger and chat about the making of their new record – interesting how they combined both studio and home recording. Also chatted about the narrator of the songs, although Andrew didn’t reveal much.
Artofthemix: Hey Andrew how is it going?
Andrew Rieger: Good - how are you?
Artofthemix: Oh good, it’s rainy here. We’ve had this Indian summer in Seattle and it’s still warm out but it’s been raining non-stop.
Andrew Rieger: Yeah that’s not unusual for you guys I guess. [laughs]
Artofthemix: Yeah, the rains are here. Fall is here. Where you at right now?
Andrew Rieger: I am in Charlottesville, Virginia. We are on tour and tonight we are in Charlottesville. Everything is going fine right now. I just stepped out and I am walking down the street talking to you.
Artofthemix: Nice, nice. How’s the weather out in Virginia right now?
Andrew Rieger: It’s beautiful. I am wearing a short sleeve shirt and feels great. It’s a little breezy but it’s not cold, very nice.
Artofthemix: So you guys got a new record out.
Andrew Rieger: Yeah it just came out a couple of weeks ago.
Artofthemix: Tell me more: I would love to hear more about who produced it and kind of how you guys made it, how you went about making it. Was it a long process or short process?
Andrew Rieger: It was a long process. We spend about 8 or 9 months writing and rehearsing and coming up with arrangements in songs. That’s a little longer than we usually take. Sometimes we have written the majority of the songs and acoustic demos and brought them to the band and then we work up arrangements together. But this time I did some of that but also some of the other band, they brought music and I would write vocal melodies and lyrics to their music. Thi was really fun and something different and kind of challenging for me. Then sometimes we would just make up stuff. I would come in with may be five minutes of song and we would work it into a full song and other times we have full song but it didn’t turn out that great. So we would take one part from it and put it into another song. So it was a long process of just pulling through tons of different music and coming up with 12 songs we really liked.
Artofthemix: Well the production is super pretty. There’s some a lot going on some of the tracks, flutes and various over dubs. It’s a rich production.
Andrew Rieger: Yeah we approached the recording differently than we have done in the past. We recorded the basic tracks with Andy LeMaster at Chase Park Transduction, which is a nice professional studio in Athens. Then we took those tracks home and spent a lot of time experimenting and trying different things. Having more time to just experiment, to try indulge any kind of whim we casually felt.
Artofthemix: Oh interesting. You didn’t have the pressure of being on the clock in the studio!
Andrew Rieger: Exactly. We took everything back to the professional studio and mixed and mastered it there. So it’s kind of perfect mix between recording in a professional studio setting and also having the freedom and the time to try all the different things in the home recording setting. So yeah it was cool and definitely a different way of doing things for us.
Artofthemix: On the production front then is that Pro Tools you are using at the home studio or are you analog? How does that all come together?
Andrew Rieger: Well when we were at the professional studio we did everything on tape and then threw it on the computer and then we used Pro Tools at the home studio so it was a mix of analog and digital. The stuff we did at the home studio was all digital recording.
Artofthemix: I have to ask you because I have been listening to your songs for many years now and there is this certain narrator that seems to come up in your songs so often. The I, the first person. I am just curious, who is that? Who is this character, has he or she evolved over the years, can you speak to this narrator.
Andrew Rieger: Well I guess it is just me.
Artofthemix: So it is you then.
Andrew Rieger: I guess it is just me or whatever kind of character I am creating in whatever scenario is in the song. But you know it is pretty much just me I guess. There is no weird serious character or alter ego for fun. I mean I guess I am just singing it all myself and my life. It will be sometimes in a veiled and abstract manner.
Artofthemix: Right well, that’s funny you call it veiled because a lot of the time the songs are about taking away veils and opening up doors and going up stairs that you didn’t know were there and peering into dimensions that you weren’t aware of.
Andrew Rieger: I like to let listener kind of decide what the lyrics are about sometimes and I will try to not make it to straight forward and literal although sometimes I like to try to tell a story as well.
Artofthemix: I always feel like I end up on some sort of journey in your songs. So what did you have for breakfast this morning?
Andrew Rieger: For breakfast this morning, I had an egg and cheese everything bagel with fake bacon at a place called, Cajun’s Peacock, in Greenville, North Carolina. I’m sure that’s fascinating for your listeners but it’s the truth.